Hawkwatching season is here! Freeport Wild Bird Supply (FWBS) will be partnering with Leica Sport Optics to sponsor the Spring Hawkwatch at Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, beginning on March 15th. 2014 marks the eighth consecutive season for this project through which valuable data is collected while providing an enjoyable and educational experience for visitors.
This year, we welcome back Katrina Fenton for her third season as the Official Counter. A native New Englander, Katrina is an experienced hawkwatcher, having spent many hours over five years with the Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory and Carter Hill Hawkwatch in New Hampshire as well as her extensive experience at The Brad. She’ll be stationed at the summit from 9:00am to 5:00 pm daily from March 15th to May 15th.
Rising 485 feet above the southern coastal plain, Bradbury Mountain provides unimpeded views to the south and east all the way to the islands of Casco Bay. Whether using updrafts off the mountain, gliding overhead, or soaring over the plains, observers watch raptors utilizing a variety of migratory methods as they work their way north. The goal of the project is to document this migration by identifying and counting all raptors that pass by the mountain. During our best spring (2010), we counted 4474 hawks, including 52 Bald Eagles, 500 Ospreys and 1746 Broad-winged Hawks. Over a period of years, these data can be analyzed to determine trends in species numbers as well as changes in distributions, which when studied in conjunction with other monitoring sites across the continent, give us a broadscale idea of what is happening with raptor populations.
But, it is not just about the numbers. Hawkwatching is a very social activity that is accessible to birders of all abilities. Last spring, we saw more than 1600 visitors! Seeing your first kettle (group of birds rising up on an updraft or thermal) of 50+ Broad-winged Hawks, or learning how to tell the difference between a Bald Eagle and a Turkey Vulture is an eye-opening experience for many folks. Organized hawkwatch sites, like Bradbury Mountain, are great places to meet new people and learn about raptors and the conservation issues they face at the same time.
With the cold and snowy weather of late, few of the early-season migrants (Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, and Rough-legged hawks) have already passed through, which bodes very well for our early-season tallies. And tomorrow’s weather looks perfect to get things off with a bang!
So, grab your binoculars and join us atop Bradbury Mountain this spring. Katrina will gladly answer questions about the raptors you will see and help visitors learn what to look for to identify the 18 species that may pass by. The hawkwatch is free, though there is an entry fee to the park.
Hope to see you on the summit!
For more information (including directions to the count site and previous seasons’ data, please visit: